To Ma, with love
First of all, let me assure you that your grandson had his glass of milk and he is cheerfully playing with his friends outside. And no, the gate is not open – he will not be running across the road.
There, now you can breathe easy.
I realize now, Ma, that it is not an easy job – of being a mother. I don’t blame you now for all the frenetic calls you had made to my PG accommodation in Delhi to know if I was back from college safe, after reading a terrible incident in the newspaper. You would listen to every bit of news about the city I resided in. So much so that I would turn to you to know if the autorickshaw strike had been called off and I could go home in one. I chuckled with mirth as you rattled off transport statistics in one breath. Then, it struck me that you had gathered all information regarding my daily travel - just because I was your child.
You were the first one to call me and warn me about the Mumbai local train bomb blasts just as I had approached VT station, leading me to jump aboard a bus instead. Just as the time when you called up in the middle of the night to break the news on the terrorist attacks. I guess sis and I took you for granted – that you will always be the one clanging the warning bells.
Ma, you know that you and I are diametrically opposite in nature and taste. We don’t see eye to eye on many things. Most things, rather. You always wanted me to wear bright colours as a kid while I always picked up the greys and browns. I still do and you still fret over that. But when you get gifts for me, they always turn out to be just the things I wanted – the right colour, the perfect shade. Sometimes I feel the disagreements you have with me are mere facades, at heart you know what I want. An expert mind reader, you are Ma!
Despite all our tearful rows, I can’t think of any other person to speak with whenever something happens with me, be it sorrowful or pleasant. My husband has given up trying to cure me of my habit of telling you every grief that I have faced. But the relief that I feel after opening up to you cannot be explained to anybody. Perhaps the same is felt by so many others who call you up so often. There have been innumerable times when you are just about to take the first morsel of food when the phone would ring and you would leave the dining table to listen to the caller’s woes. No amount of angry stares would work and you would return to a cold meal after solving the trouble of others.
I have watched you handle things as diverse as managing wedding preparations to calling plumbers on behalf of someone in Guwahati, sitting at our home in Bangalore. You complain of growing old and losing your memory and yet you are a ready reckoner of birthdays and anniversaries. Perhaps they remain etched in your mind because you had played an active role in those events and you genuinely love them. Every now and then we get a call in the morning reminding us to wish someone for his/her birthday or anniversary. “Don’t forget,” you would goad us and I would imagine a strict face behind the phone call.
You were definitely strict, Ma. You brought us up almost single handedly in a jungle and then later in a city while my workaholic father burned midnight oil for his office. You taught me how to read and write Assamese and English in our jungle home so that when I finally joined school I scored 100 out of 100 in most subjects. I still remember your warning when we were growing up in a co-ed school. “Don’t sully your father’s hard earned name by doing anything silly,” you had told us, but in fact it was your honest learning that we had to uphold.
As I am writing to you, high fever sallies through me. Just as I had turned to you when my son had fever, I am again dependent on you for your advice. From a concerned grandmother you have become a worried mother in the blink of an eye. You have been calling my husband at work telling him how to keep the fever at bay. We think we have become much empowered with the internet at our finger tips, but at the end of the day, it is you who turn out with the best remedy.
And yet, I can’t wait to have our next fight, Ma.
Your elder daughter who is as hyperactive as you are.
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